The BBC could lose the Grand National, the Derby and Royal Ascot from its schedules after reportedly being outbid by Channel 4 for the rights to show the events.
A BBC insider told The Daily Telegraph: “We’re very proud of our heritage in racing but it had to come to an end at some point. Something had to go and it was the horse racing. We can’t expect to have all our rights forever because it’s a changing world.”
The corporation’s contract to cover racing, which expires at the end of 2012, was for £7.5m over three years, which bought 13 days of action per year.
And although the BBC is said to have put in what it believed was a competitive bid for the rights, it appears to have lost out to Channel 4, which already has a committed core audience for racing.
While Channel 4 stresses that negotiations are still ongoing, it is understood to have made the better offer, and the feeling at the BBC is said to be one of resignation, especially as the corporation is currently seeking to cut its sports budget by 15 per cent.
If the deal proceeds as expected, this year’s Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday 20 October will be the last race broadcast by the BBC.
Should the BBC lose the Grand National rights, it will be the end of the corporation’s 85 year association with the event. The BBC first covered the race on radio in 1927 and has televised it every year since 1960.